Compared to 2022, which showered us with terrific original dramas every month, this year’s beginning can seem a bit lukewarm. Unusually, original dramas took a backseat as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video released Korean films instead (JUNG_E and Project Wolf Hunting respectively). However, the few dramas that have made it to streaming platforms recently – and those that are on their way – have largely been explorations of love. From complicated office romances to the politics of love in the Joseon era, these dramas are filled with longing, passion and a pinch of jealousy. What better time to catch up on these than Valentine's Day? Here are our picks from the latest releases.
When: January 14
If you’ve been craving some Noona romance (a romance drama where the woman is older than the man) then Crash Course in Romance is the one for you. Cannes-winning actress Jeon Do-yeon returns to the romantic-comedy genre after a good 18 years, playing Nam Haeng-son, a devoted caregiver and a former athlete. Reluctantly entering the war of Korea’s college entrance exams, Haeng-son vows to get her niece into the country’s top hagwon (a private academy/“cram school” prevalent in Korea). But things go awry when she gets off on the wrong foot with the hagwon's star instructor, Choi Chi-yeol (Jung Kyun-ho). Childish banter eventually gives way to an unlikely friendship, culminating in a series that is all kinds of wholesome.
When: January 18
Where: Disney+ Hotstar
Can love bloom in the midst of dirty politics? Bloody Heart takes us back to the Joseon era, a time whose hierarchy is still glimpsed in every Korean space today. As expected from a sageuk, our protagonist is a king whose powers are being challenged by his court. Lee-tae (Lee Joon) might have ascended the throne but the real authority figure is Park Gye-won (Jang Hyuk), the vice-premier. As the battle for power gets bloodier, Lee-tae realises that he must choose between his ambition and the woman he has loved since he was child: Yoo-jung (Kang Han-na). Yoo-jung herself must fight for her life – a task that requires her to become the Queen and join the political intrigue that pits her against Lee-tae. The two lovers are forced to switch between passion and cruelty and by the end of the series, Bloody Heart can seem like a painfully apt title.
When: February 10
What makes an enemies-to-lovers trope even better? A fake-dating contract. Directed by Kim Jeong-kwon, Love to Hate You looks like a dose of good ol’ romantic comedy, woven tantalisingly around two polar opposites: A-list actor Nam Kang-ho and badass lawyer Yeo Mi-ran. Kang-ho (Yoo Teo) might be the Master of Kisses on-screen but off-screen he harbours an acute distrust of women. Mi-ran (Kim Ok-bin), on the other hand, absolutely hates losing to men. When circumstances push the two into a three-month fake-dating contract, each is sure of emerging unscathed. But we know better.
When: December 21, 2022
Albeit a standard Korean drama with familiar characters you have probably seen before, The Interest of Love is a treat for fans of the love triangle (or square, in this case). According to Nielsen Korea, the series broadcast on February 1st broke its own records and reached an average nationwide viewership of 3.5%, a bump up from its previous 3.3%. Four bank employees, each with their own complicated relationship with love and wealth, get entangled in a series of missed chances and almost affairs. The series engages in the will-they-won’t-they angle, which can be frustrating over 16 episodes if slow-burn love stories aren’t your thing. If they are, The Interest of Love’s last episode drops today.
When: February 22
Where: Disney+ Hotstar
Woo-joo’s (Kim Ga-eun) life is upended when she learns about her father’s infidelity and later, his death, in quick succession. Pouncing on the opportunity, his father’s mistress kicks Woo-joo out of their family home. Betrayed and homeless, Woo-joo decides to exact revenge on the woman’s son from a previous relationship – Dong-jin (Kim Ji-yeon). But to her exasperation, she realises that Dong-jin is a gentle being, struggling with the kind of terrible loneliness that Woo-joo recognises as her own. Finding a kindred spirit was not part of the plan and Woo-joo cannot help but fall for Dong-jin. Will she be able to see her revenge through?